Meaning and Enactment in a Buddhist Ritual

Patricia Q Campbell

in Negotiating Rites

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812295
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919390 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

Meaning and Enactment in a Buddhist Ritual

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A ritual regularly performed at a Tibetan-based Buddhist centre in Toronto, Canada, highlights the process of negotiating meaning in Western Buddhist Centres. The Offering to the Spiritual Guide is a ritual regularly performed at Chandrakirti Centre, part of an international organization whose members are Westerners from non- Buddhist backgrounds. This detailed rite, which is intended to generate a special relationship between participants and their guru-deity, is often attended by participants who are entirely unfamiliar with the tradition or its cosmologies. Consultants contend that it is not important to understand the meaning or meanings of the rite in order to participate in it. Participation, in fact, appears to be more significant than comprehension. The Offering to the Spiritual Guide is explored here through performance theory, using a series of metaphors connecting rites to other kinds of performance or enactment. Although it has some limitations for understanding the meditative elements of the rite, performance theory highlights two significant elements in which the meanings of the rite are being negotiated: ritual identity and ritual action. Interview data indicates that, while some participants negotiate their relationship to the guru-deity through the rite, others are negotiating more basic meanings concerning their participation.

Keywords: Chandrakirti Centre; guru-deity; participation; Offering to the Spiritual Guide

Chapter.  8629 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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